DALLAS – An African-American man who worked as a cashier at Atkinson Toyota in southern Dallas filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the dealership alleging that he experienced a racially hostile work environment.
“I lived in New York - born and raised - and never in my life was called that," said Robert Stewart, 51.
He claims a supervisor repeatedly called him racial slurs during the year or so in which Stewart was employed.
"He comes to the desk. He reaches over and says, 'You're a jigaboo.' I sat back. I said 'What?' 'You're a jigaboo. Yeah. That's right,'” said Stewart.
“Jiggaboo. Porch Monkey. N***er. Shut the f**k up n***er. I'm your boss,” are other names Stewart said he was called.
Stewart filed a federal lawsuit this month after he said supervisors went months without addressing it.
“I went to the chain of command. I even told people I work with. I said 'I can't believe this man is calling me this stuff,'" said Stewart.
"It is outrageous but is not surprising,” explained James Vagnini, one of Stewart’s attorneys.
At least three other employees have come forward and signed sworn affidavits saying they witnessed it, added Vagnini.
“You can't control what every employee says every day, but you can control how you react to it as a company, and that's where we think the dealership failed,” said Jay Ellwanger, one of Stewart’s attorneys.
The dealership has yet to respond in federal court to the May 14 lawsuit. Darren Day, the general manager of Atkinson Toyota South Dallas, responded to a WFAA email to say he is currently out of town in meetings.
“We appreciate you reaching out, but we do not comment on our clients’ litigation matters,” wrote Jen Klein, Director of Public Relations for Littler, the Houston law firm representing Atkinson Toyota.
Stewart's attorneys also represent eight sanitation workers in Paris who sued last month alleging a racially hostile work environment.
The lawyers got a total of $8 million in judgments against Sara Lee Bakery and Turner Industries over similar accusations. They have an EEOC complaint filed against Miller Coors in Fort Worth.
In Stewart's case, the dealership forced the name caller to resign, he said.
"Him resigning, it doesn't mean anything because the people that were part of it are still there," added Stewart.
That's why Stewart said he sued in hopes the company will change its culture.